- Our Town
Uncertainty grows over legal marijuana operations
The federal government will take legal marijuana grow operations out of private hands in favour of large, commercial operations as of April 1, 2014.
While Salmon Arm Fire Chief Brad Shirley enthusiastically applauds the move, he wonders who will be responsible for making sure the residential grow-ops do shut down.
“Our concern is that there are 30,000 residential grow-ops in Canada, 10,000 of which are in B.C.,” he says.
“It’s all great that they’re going away from that, but does Health Canada have any process in place that they will be discontinued and out of business?”
While he doesn’t dispute the value of marijuana for medical purposes, Shirley says illegal grow-ops pose more danger.
“All of a sudden, are we gonna have another 10,000 grow-ops added to the other illegal operations?” he asks.
Shirley says there are grow-ops in residential buildings that have never had proper electrical inspection.
“A typical residence was not designed for the electrical or the ventilation required to grow anything – marijuana or cabbage,” he says, acknowledging Health Canada has never advised fire departments where these legal grow-ops are located.
“Due to privacy considerations, Health Canada is unable to disclose information to the public (including the police) related to authorizations to possess and licences to produce marijuana, due to the fact that disclosure of the information could lead to a privacy violation,” says a statement emailed to the Observer Friday.
While Shirley and RCMP Staff Sgt. Kevin Keane can understand the need for privacy due to the risk legal grow operators would be at for theft, both men say they should be aware of where they are.
“Oh God, absolutely!” Shirley says. “It would be very important to know because of the increased risk.”
Shirley points to the explosion at a legal grow-op in Gleneden earlier this summer that took a man’s life.
And all Health Canada does is say “yes” or “no.” So police have no idea if a grower is exceeding their allowable grow.
“It puts us behind the eight ball,” he says. “Our biggest concern is echoing Brad’s comments – are they operating safely? Is the city issuing business licences?” he asks, pointing out anyone opening a restaurant or hair studio would need to have a licence.
“If there’s a regimen for inspection, I’d like to know what that is, because neither the police, government or fire department know where they are.”
Like Shirley, Keane is interested in how Health Canada plans to make sure now-legal grows will shut down March 31.
Health Canada’s response is clear about who will be left to deal with any private grow-op that fails to close.
“Any complaints should be referred to the appropriate law and/or bylaw enforcement authority.”
Meanwhile WorkPlace BC has withdrawn from the investigation into the July 4 explosion in Gleneden, having learned early last week that there was no employee-employer relationship.
The investigation continues in the hands of the BC Safety Authority.
“We’re conducting an investigation into the cause of the explosion and whether or not it came from a technical problem and whether or not proper permits were in place,” said a BC Safety Authority spokesperson. “The investigation is ongoing and we can’t speculate on how long it will take.”